Here Comes The Rain!

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.20.36 AM
Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.20.36 AM

The rainy season has begun here in Israel! The prayers for rain began in earnest at the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and the former rains have begun to fall already. Visitors to Israel will often notice the signs about the water shortage, and stressing the importance of water conservation. Like most things in Israel, rain and drought are also deeply spiritual subjects, and God has a lot to say about it all. And have you ever wondered why God chose that little piece of real estate rather than say… the South of France? A stunning part of China? Or lush Ireland? Why dusty little Israel?

Why Israel?

Shocking fact: the only natural water source in Israel is the Sea of Galilee, or the Kinneret, as they call it here. The Kinneret is the source of the river Jordan, which flows into the Dead Sea. (‘Kinneret’ means stringed instrument – the sea is so-called because of its shape resembling the harp of David). And the only way that this natural reservoir can serve the entire country is if it is continually replenished… from the sky.

I know a rabbi who teaches (and it’s a common thought around here) that the reason God chose Israel as his own specifically designated property for his people was due to this fact. Israel is by nature utterly dependent on “the heavens” in a very real and practical way.

Surrounding Israel are nations who have their own flowing water sources – Egypt has the Nile, and the Euphrates serves the Mesopotamian basin, but Israel has no such permanent and reliable source of water. Civilisations quickly sprung up around the rivers that could sustain life, but God led his people to a land where they are utterly at the mercy of the skies… and therefore completely dependent on the one who can make it rain.

Rain as a sign of blessing

Several times in the Old Testament, God had his prophets effectively seal up the heavens at his bidding, and again they would say the word, and God would send rain. Drought was a punishment, and rain a blessing. It was a strong way of getting Israel’s attention. Here are a few passages from the Bible which show this very clearly:

Deuteronomy 11:10-17The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.

It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.

Deuteronomy 28:12The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

Acts 14:17Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Look up

As John Piper says in his book on fasting, A Hunger For God; "The people of God are often called to go without the ordinary means of life." Things that come naturally and without thought for most of the world’s population become a matter of trust and dependence, created to be as such by God. In stopping the natural things that we take for granted, God causes us to look up to him, and to depend upon him to meet our needs. He creates the need for faith where there is none necessary in the ordinary (consider how the natural matter of having children was such a belaboured and bewailed affair for so many in the line of the Messiah, and how it was transformed into something supernatural – for Sarah, for Rebecca, and for Rachel – and you’ll see what I mean).

And so God has placed his people in a dry and dusty land with no reliable source of water so that they must look up to the skies, and to the one who can make it rain. He did it on purpose. He loves his children to depend upon him and his provision, rather than taking the natural for granted, and relying on their own abilities to cope. He wanted them to have to come to him and talk to him. In short, he wanted relationship with them.

The righteous and the unrighteous

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45)

Jesus reminds us that God is merciful to everyone, regardless of their behaviour. How many times does he protect and deliver his people, Israel – even in their sin? And how extreme is his kindness to die for us while we were still sinners? Even though God set up the rain-as-blessing system, he still has compassion on the people of the land, even in their sin, idolatry and rebellion. All the people of this land.

Praise God for the rain that is falling here in Israel, on the righteous and the unrighteous, and pray for a spiritual downpour too – for the changing of hearts and lives. Pray specifically that people would look upwards to God for help, and come to know that they can have a wonderful relationship with him through his Messiah, Yeshua – the source of living water.